Goodbye Columbus

Goodbye Columbus

“The current state of knowledge is a moment in history, changing just as rapidly as the state of knowledge in the past has changed and in many instances, more rapidly.” (Jean Piaget)

” What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors”. (James Baldwin)

“We are not maker’s of history. We are made by history.”
(Martin Luther King Jr.)

Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America, since the continent was already there and thriving with culture. At the time of his arrival, humans had been living there for at least 20,000 years and our Northern and Southern continents were populated by hundreds of small nations and regional empires. Nevertheless, Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October as a national holiday, with events and parades; and this patriotic lie is still enshrined in public school textbooks. My generation of elementary school pupils dutifully parroted the poem which began ” In nineteen hundred and forty two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and this nonsense apparently still conveyed to children today, is nothing more than propaganda. As James W. Loewen points out in Lies My Teacher’s Told Me: Everthing Your American History Books Got Wrong (2007), American History books ” are marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, sheer misinformation and outright lies. These books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict and drama from our past. ”

Never mind that Columbus’s expedition never set foot on the North Amercian landmass. They arrived at an island he named San Salvatore, somewhere in the Bahamas, that he thought was India, and didn’t hesitate taking the land, wealth and labor from the indigenous peoples. This led to the near extermination of local inhabitants while Columbus also initiated the reign of terror that became the transatlantic slave trade. Even more gruesome factors are readily available in primary source material provided by letters of his and other members of his crew. ( )

While some enlightened communities prefer to celebrate our October holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day, the myth of benevolent discovery persists. Nevertheless, the truth is even more interesting. Harvard scholar Garikai Chengu, in challenging a Eurocentric view of history, maintains African Amercian history did not begin with slavery in the New World. He suggests that a growing body of evidence indicates that Africans had frequently sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas, thousand of years before Colombus and the Christian era. In his view, the strongest evidence for Africans in Ameirca comes from Columbus himself who wrote about “black skinned people who had come from the Southeast in boats, trading in gold tipped spears”. (, August 10,2018) African explorers could well have crossed the Atlantic in ancient boats, especially given the likelyhood that landmasses between the continents existed in previous times which are now under water.

During the ninteen-forties, archeologists discovered a civilization now known as the Olmecs of c.1500-400 BC, which predates any other advanced civilization in the Americas. There is reason to believe that this Olmec civilization, the Mother Culture of Mexico and Mesoamercia, was of African origin, and other races were involved, as well. The rise of the Olmec empire, whose heartland was located in the tropical lowlands of South Central Mexico, also coincided with the period that Black Egyptian culture ascended in Africa. Despite the ethnocentric academics eager to dismiss the African-Atlantic hypothesis, in The Ra Expeditions (1971) Thor Heydahl proved that Egyptian reed boats could make the passage along favorable currents from Africa to the Americas.

The idea that the Olmecs were related to African civilization was first suggested by Jose’ Melgar in 1862 and later developed by Guyanese born Rutgers University Professor, Ivan van Sertima (1935-2009), in They Came Before Columbus (1997), which was subject to much derision by eurocentric academics. Nevertheless, many of the Olmec colossal heads, first discovered in 1858, (which date from c. 814 BC, can be up to 10 feet tall, and weigh up to 4 tons), display clearly defined Negroid features, as well as intricate African-style braids. These still mysterious, beautifully carved heads, who may have been warriors, priests, sports heros or rulers, all wear helmets possibly fashioned of leather or even gold. As the earliest known major civilization in their region, the Olmecs were the first pyramid builders and acomplished stone carvers who had a written language; as well as being accomplished farmers, astronomers and mathematicians.

While the exact origin of what is now known as the Mayan calendar is controversial, it is believed by many that thier system of time keeping originated with the Olmecs.This complex calendar is non-linear and measures varying lengths of time in three interlocking wheels of various sizes; the Tolkin sacred calendar of 260 days, the Haab solar calendar of 365 days and the Long Count of a much greater cycle. It also seems likely that this Long Count and the concept of zero may have been a major Olmec contribution to Mesoamerican civilization. Unfortunately, the Mayan calendar is often confused with the circular Aztec Sun Stone which is a sacrificial altar and not a calendar.

Additional evidence of an African presence in the Americas prior to Columbus, may rest with the discovery and dating of a skull nicknamed Luzia, discovered in1975. Her remains, which date from the Upper Paleolithic era are from a strata radiocarbon-dated to be 11,500 years old. Luzia was found in a cave likely occupied by a group of hunter/ gatherers who roamed the savannah of South Central Brazil; and who may have migrated from Africa. Various anthropologists have described her features as Negroid and forensic facial-reconstruction expert Richard Neave agrees that she is likely of African orgin.

This and other ongoing discoveries necessitate a serious reassessment of long established theories as to the settlment of the Americas. (Larry Rohter, “An Ancient Skull Challenges Long Held Theories”, NY Times, October 26, 1999).

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